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Charlie Crist leading statewide survey of 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidates

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With a presidential and U.S. Senate election to focus on, Florida Democrats don’t appear to be thinking too much about who might be their standard-bearer for governor in 2018.

Other than pure name recognition, how else to explain that in a statewide survey of Democrats conducted by St. Pete Polls earlier this week, former Republican Governor Charlie Crist by far leads any other Democrat, getting 38 percent support.

Crist is running to serve in Washington this fall in Florida’s 13th Congressional District’s against David Jolly. He has made no indications that he would then turn around and run for the seat he held from 2006-2010.

Finishing in second place in the survey is Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who gets 12 percent. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is at 10 percent, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gets 9 percent, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is at 3 percent, and state Senator Jeremy Ring gets 0.9 percent. Another 7 percent prefer another candidate, and 19 percent were unsure.

Graham, Buckhorn and Levine all gave speeches at the Florida Delegation Breakfasts that were held daily in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention. Of the three, Buckhorn won the most plaudits for his speech, while some criticized Graham for using a teleprompter.

Levine’s address was considered extremely low-key.

Graham, the daughter of former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham, has been hailed as a potential star in the party after her election to Congress in 2014, but her district was severally altered in redistricting last year, prompting her to announce earlier this year that she would not run for a second term. She has indicated that she is strongly considering a statewide run in 2018.

Ring, who worked for Yahoo before getting elected to the Legislature, has also talked up a possible 2018 candidacy, as has Levine.

Dyer and Buckhorn have been more circumspect about a possible run.

Although Crist has denied any interest in running for higher office, there are still those throughout the state who say it is impossible to discount the possibility that he might pursue a third run for the office. After serving one term as governor, Crist left the office to run for U.S. Senate in 2010, where he lost while running as an independent.

In 2014 he became the Democratic nominee for governor before narrowly losing to Rick Scott. He announced his candidacy for CD 13 last fall.

The robocall poll contacted 1,807 Florida likely Democratic Primary voters Tuesday, Aug. 2. It has a 2.3 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

Some candidates have questioned St. Pete Polls surveys in the past, because they do not include cellphones in their polls.

The study did poll only Democrats who voted in the 2012 and 2014 primary elections.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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